Discord & Harmony

It’s the winter solstice, my favorite cozy celebration of the year; the long night the breath between discord and the hope of harmony.

The sun shone Sunday, after days of wind and rain when I hardly left the house. I cleaned the roof—1000 fir cones that had been hitting the roof like grenades in the brutal winds—and picked up branchlets large and small in the yard and driveway. I always feel lucky when a tree doesn’t fall near the house or a branch doesn’t fly through a window (the tornado destruction in the Midwest is unfathomable). But even with our relatively inconsequential winds, I was stunned to discover one side of my garden fence laid flat from where it has stood for eight years. I’ve been undecided if I want to rebuild the garden in the spring after dismantling the three most rotted boxes and putting the buttercup to bed under a smothering blanket of black plastic. I think this has decided it for me. All good things reach their logical end, and we put them behind us in order to make room for what’s next.

It was a chilly 37º and not quite light when I left the house at 7:30 Monday morning, heading thirty miles up I-5 to Olympia. It rained the whole way, and the temperature had dropped three degrees by the time I got to Panera Bread, to be followed by yoga, and then grocery shopping. I would have stayed home if not for that last. I really hate shopping in the crowded, half unmasked (in spite of the state mandate) grocery store in my own town.

Panera has been all but empty since I returned to my weekly bagel and writing practice last month. Almost none of the regulars from before times are there. I miss them. But this time, Barbara—who used to come with her husband and scratch off Lotto cards after they read the newspapers, and who then came alone because her husband died—stopped by my table. “I don’t know your name,” she said, “but I wanted to wish you a happy holiday because I’m glad you’re back, and most of us have not come back and it’s sad.” I asked her if the couple who sat at the table under the fireplace playing Uno and Rummikub had been back. She shook her head sadly. She was so sweet, I wanted to weep. To be seen is an amazing thing.

It was snowing when I left there for yoga. I was glad I hadn’t skipped it, even though I was doing solstice yoga in the evening, virtually, but still by candle and Christmas tree light. There were seven us, plus the teacher; that’s the most there’s been since it returned to in-person two months ago. It’s in a new space, because the old one closed down. Class size in the before times averaged twenty or thirty and our mats were nearly touching. It was cozy to be there in person, sitting on my mat, six feet or more from anyone else. And, unusually, both my oms were in harmony; at home they are off key and back in community I’ve had a hard time finding the pitch.

Photo credit: Olympia Yoga Sanctuary

I was sad Sunday afternoon and evening. It’s really the first time I’ve deeply felt the grief of these times. Maybe it was the fence. Or because the community Christmas play was canceled. Or maybe because I had tried twice to create a tiny Christmas gathering for this week or next, but nothing worked out. My cross-country sister and family aren’t coming. And my Seattle family unexpectedly bought a house and are packing and moving during the school holiday. I’m going to Seattle for Christmas Eve and Day, but the planned visit to my house on Boxing Day has been canceled—though, unless something changes, the Littles will be here so the moms can be more focused and productive. It will be exhausting, but I’m looking forward to their liveliness and hugs. Literally no one has seen my lovely (expensive) tree or delighted in my crèche, and won’t. I expect to take it all down unshared. Half a string of lights went out on the tree, as if to say, “Who cares?” December’s full moon was just a glow in the fog Sunday night, but at least there was a glow. There’s no blazing fire this year, either, because I’m still awaiting arrival of parts and my turn to have the crumbling mortar chimney lined. But the candles are cozy.

It was too stormy last week to fill the bird feeders on the deck, and ten dark-eyed juncos lined up on the deck rail, waiting, waiting, waiting. We are all waiting. I filled the feeders after I cleaned the roof.

Sunday, looking in my recipe notebook for my Christmas bread recipe while making a grocery list, I flipped a plastic page to a recipe for gingerbread and suddenly I absolutely had to have warm gingerbread and homemade applesauce. Right then and there I made it. It made the house smell impossibly divine, and tasted like a shot of heaven come down to earth, like it could save the world.

And this in my inbox this morning:

Wherever you’re spending your holidays, may you be cocooning in coziness. Sometimes it doesn’t take much — some stillness, the voice of someone you care about, a candle, a soft pillow, a furry friend, a little bit of nature . . . and a good story. May we create more good stories to share!” —Mary Alice Arthur, Story Activist

My furry friend.

Blessed solstice to each of you dear people. This post will publish at 7:59am PST, the precise moment when the Northern Hemisphere is tilted farthest from the sun, and it will be winter. The light will begin its slow return. May your discord turn toward harmony. May you be cozy through the dark of winter. And may you make good stories and find someone with whom to share them, even if it’s the juncos or a furry friend.

P.S. My Zoom feed had no sound for solstice yoga. I was so sad. I guess grief has come to find me finally. I had a good cry, then got up and heated gingerbread and applesauce and sat in the candlelight, while my Airbnb guest’s soft guitar strums rose up through the heat registers.

16 thoughts on “Discord & Harmony

  1. Thank you for sharing a little of your story. I just took a walk with my two dogs in the bitter wild wind and now we’re in for the night, waiting for my son to arrive with his dogs. There will be two humans this year and five dogs. On Christmas Eve, we’ll light candles and tell stories about those we miss–and we’ll feast on yogurt cream-cheese pie, a family favorite. Blessings to you and your patient little birds

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A lovely read, each bit of it. And, you inspired me to make gingerbread, which the 7 year old was happy to help with. I’ve never made quite as much mess while baking, but it was worth every warm mouthful to make it feel like a new solstice tradition. Wishing you well into this winter season.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Nancy. And excellent! The oven-warm gingerbread was just about the best thing I ever ate. Probably because it was so cozy and I was so in need of cozy. Rewarmed wasn’t quite so heavenly. It’s a perfect solstice tradition. I’m on it! Blessings of the season to you too. I think we should have a Nancy, Bonnie Rae, Gretchen meetup in the new year. 💜

      Liked by 1 person

      1. By the way, I brought my granddaughter home from a cold rainy outing and my daughter, her mama, had a perfect tray of cinnamon buns coming right out of the oven, just like yours! Absolute heaven! And a strange synchronicity in the ethers.


  3. All the love. Advent, aka the days before solstice–is supposed to be a dark time, when we are closest to our grief. The human spirit needs the shadows for the coming of light to be a shattering surprise.

    They bought a house! Hurray!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Every year since we’ve met, I’ve looked forward to your words around solstice. Even as there is a dollup of sadness and darkness again this year, you bring light to the page, and for that I am so grateful. Thanks for keeping it real. With snow in the forecast it might be a very interesting week ahead. Buckle up and brace for the joy 💫

    And the flakes … ❄
    (Congrats to the YoJo’s!)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah, thank you. I’m not sure I even realized I had a traditional solstice post, and I didn’t know I was going to write this one until I sat down for a nap and wrote a story instead! I hope you find some light this Christmas weekend. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow. (Though last I checked, it had backed off. And it is a tad inconvenient for it to show up next week.)


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